In January, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson takes charge of the federal workforce as head of the Senate's Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. One more reason for Russ Feingold, who is rumored to be considering a run for his old Senate seat, to come back from Africa.
The tea party is now in charge of government affairs, in the person of Johnson, and boy does it have big plans.
On the Fox News show The Kelly File, Johnson laid out his plan to block President Barack Obama's executive order to reform enforcement of deportation orders for immigrants, saving millions of immigrant families from being split apart.
"President Obama has exceeded his executive authority, of course, on Obamacare and now on immigration," Johnson said. "And now that we have a Republican majority in the Senate, we will be able to use the power of the purse, and we should do so.... We can defund areas of Obama's lawlessness."
Instead of shutting down the whole government, Johnson added, "You can defund each individual agency."
Republican lawmakers, for instance, could deny agencies that issue work permits the funds to do their work, he explained.
On another matter of governmental affairs, Johnson recently told The Washington Post that federal employees are overpaid, even after enduring a three-year pay freeze.
But as the Post noted, a Federal Salary Council report issued in October found that white-collar federal employees are paid on average 35% less than their private-sector counterparts.
Johnson, who married into millions and is one of the richest men in the Senate, called the Affordable Care Act "the single greatest assault to our freedom in my lifetime" when he ran in 2010 against Feingold, one of the Senate's poorest members.
Government employees' pay should be cut, Johnson says, the public workforce should be downsized, health care benefits and retirement should be scrutinized for more cuts and, Johnson told the Post, "I really don't think public-sector employees should be unionized."
Get ready for the Scott Walker treatment, Washington.
All of this cutting is in the service of reducing the deficit, which is Johnson's top concern. He ignores the inconvenient data that the deficit plunged by a third in 2014, reaching historic lows.
If that weren't bad enough, another of Wisconsin's own, Paul Ryan, has ascended to chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, where he will oversee Social Security, health care and social programs.
Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
Ryan is most famous for his plans to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, and slash health care, food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor. His efforts prompted a series of letters expressing deep concern from Catholic bishops, priests and lay people, who see Ryan's budget proposals as immoral and, in the words of Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, harmful to "hungry children, poor families, low-income workers and other vulnerable people."
A letter to Ryan from the faculty of Georgetown University reinforced the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' view and challenged Ryan's "continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few."
We are a long way from Wisconsin's proud history as a leader in both the Progressive Era and the Catholic Worker Movement. Polish workers organized in Milwaukee's St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in the late 1800s. They marched to demand an eight-hour day and died when the National Guard troops arrived and shot seven protesters.
These bloody early labor battles eventually led to a series of nation-changing reforms that started here in Wisconsin: protections for workers, social insurance for women and children, legislation to get the corrupting influence of money out of politics and, yes, collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Wages are stagnant, inequality is at historic levels, and Republicans are hell-bent on destroying the last bastion of union organizing -- the public sector.
It's beginning to look a lot like old times.
Except nowadays, Wisconsin is on the leading edge of the attack on workers and civil society, slashing aid to the poor, and exporting Ayn Rand protégés to Washington.
Anti-government warriors are running the government. And Ryan and Walker are both considering running for president.
Come back, Russ Feingold!
Ruth Conniff is the editor of The Progressive.